Islamist insurgents in the southern Philippines released a Taiwanese tourist who was kidnapped more than a month ago on a remote Malaysian resort island, a Filipino military commander said yesterday.
Philippine police and marines found Evelyn Chang late on Friday in a village on the Philippine island of Jolo after they were tipped off by residents, said Sulu provincial commander Colonel Jose Cenabre.
"I think I just want to say I deeply appreciate the Philippine military for giving me such a big help and assistance to rescue me. Thank you very much," Chang said in English in a pre-recorded message aired by several Taiwanese news channels yesterday.
Chang was on holiday with her husband when she was seized on November 15 from a villa on Pom Pom island in the Malaysian state of Sabah. The kidnappers killed her husband and took her by boat to Jolo, according to officials in both countries.
Chang told Philippine authorities that she did not see her husband being shot but heard gunfire as he was being dragged away by kidnappers who wore ski masks, Cenabre said.
Chang was held by Abu Sayyaf militants after she was handed over to them by the gang who initially seized her, Cenabre said. Abu Sayyaf is seeking an independent Muslim state in the mostly Catholic country.
Abu Sayyaf, which is thought to have received funding from al-Qaeda in the past, is notorious for kidnapping. Cenabre said he did not know whether any ransom was paid for Chang's release. Any such deals are normally not immediately disclosed to the media, if at all.
"We were able to recover her safely," Cenabre said. "Physically, she was all right."
In 2000, Abu Sayyaf gunmen crossed the porous maritime border with Malaysia in speedboats and snatched 21 European tourists and Malaysian and Filipino workers from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort and brought them to the southern Philippines, where the captives were later released for ransom.
Early this month, Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani was freed by Abu Sayyaf after more than a year in jungle captivity. He was lured into one of their camps with a promise of an interview.
Militants are still holding more than a dozen captives, including two European bird watchers who were kidnapped last year in Tawi-Tawi province.